Attention Thrill Seekers! Hammer’s House of Horrors is a definite cheap thrill. In honor of Halloween ECR has compiled a list of the top ten ones that are must see!
The classic age of Hammer horror is known for its casual extremes: vibrant color, garish opulence, brutal violence, understated overacting, loud music, gallons of red blood, gothic weirdness, voluptuous ladies, and myth tinkering. To everyone out there, The first three are off the list completely. No Curse of Frankenstein…No Horror of Dracula…No Quartermass. While this trio set the blueprint for everything that followed, they would be merely cornerstones amongst all the bricks that built the Hammer House of Horror.
Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires
Bloodsuckers and Kung Fu…let me repeat. Bloodsuckers and KUNG FU! Hammer joins forces with the Shaw Brothers to unleash an excellent genre value meal sure to satisfy any hungry customers. The slapdash nature of the script just adds to the bonkers crazy within these frames. Peter Cushing appears again as Van Helsing which provides it the only sense of this being a Hammer Film. While not a great movie, no list worth it’s salt would be complete without listing it…somewhere.
Dracula 1972 A.D.
If you like movies like The Love Witch this retro voyage into terminal hippery comes across as stylistically desperate as a group of London Swingers hook up with a Satanist cult attempting to bring back the Dracula as the devil himself. They unleash Christopher Lee again as the titular bloodsucker but also bring back Peter Cushing as Van Helsing for the first time since 1958. This penultimate performance by Christopher Lee is a modern take on the legend much like his final grave rising in The Satanic Rites of Dracula a year later. That movie lacks the major cool factor present here. The ladies are sexy. The camerawork is bonkers. The blood flows freely. Ten stars.
The Vampire Lovers
This movie is draped in gossamer curtains and sheer nightgowns. The 1872 novel Carmilla gets a loose screen adaptation with Ingrid Pitt going headlong into the first of the Karnstein trilogy. Lesbian Seagull themes run amuck in a fantastic film opulently directed by Roy Ward Baker.
Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell
Not only Hammer’s last attempt at a Frankenstein film, but also the last film for maestro Terrance Fisher. Heavily censored upon release the naughty bits have been restored on the 2014 UK DVD/Bluray. If you can find it worth it. Grand Tarkin and Darth Vader in the same flick years before Peter Cushing and David Prowse would roam the Deathstar in Star Wars. Originally filmed in 1972 but not released until 1974. This is another solid entry in the catalog.
Oliver Reed comes on strong as a gaslighting heavy in this Psycho-ish psychological thriller. It’s got hidden walls, family inheritances, and building moody disaster. An excellent addition to this list because while it is lite on monsters and blood, it does scream across the screen with excellence.
Brides of Dracula
The direct sequel to Horror of Dracula is lite on Dracula but does provide audiences with not one but three beauties in the title roles. Christopher Lee won’t be found so we are left with Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing chewing the scenery spectacularly. While panned on its original release in 1960 with one reviewer calling the color and decor “inappropriate.” Spanish schlock meister Jesus Franco cites this picture as inspiring him to pick up a movie camera and launch his own career.
Twins of Evil
Which one’s the evil twin? In this vehicle for playboy playmates, Mary and Madeleine Collinson, little time is wasted getting to the good stuff. Peter Cushing plays the determined puritan Uncle who pauses his witchfinding long enough to be snooty to his newly arrived nieces. They soon become obsessed with Count Karnstein whom they are told is a wicked man. While light on the lesbianism, it overflows with moody atmosphere. A good one to see on the biggest screen possible, allowing the twin’s assets to be fully appreciated.
Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter
If only it had been a hit movie, this thing could’ve taken off in all the right directions. A tell of coulda-woulda-shoulda this film rules in all the right ways. High adventure and over-the-top Hammer at its bombastic best. I would give six Dracula/Frankenstein sequels for at least two more of these. Rated R for sex and violence.
Weirdo Circus comes to town and villagers are treated to body paint and debauchery. The body count rises swiftly and so does the absurdity. Popmatters once called it, “one of the company’s last great classics”, writing, “erotic, grotesque, chilling, bloody, suspenseful and loaded with doom and gloom atmosphere, this is the kind of experiment in terror that reinvigorates your love of the scary movie artform.”Too say anymore is to say too much. Somethings can’t be unseen. Highly recommended!!
Curse of the Werewolf
Two words: Oliver. Reed. His first starring role on film is a good one as the titular werewolf. A star on the make and for good reason. The screen radiates with Reed’s young charisma and the make-up ain’t half bad. If you can stomach the murk and cruelty of the overly long prologue a fine piece of genre filmmaking is unleashed on your screen. Also the first werewolf movie in color for bonus points. Heavily censored upon release. A Quality Cheap Thrill!
Christopher Lee’s labor of love is hands down the best Hammer film as well as director Terrance Fisher’s. A film that is both stylish, swift, and unlike other Hammer Horrors is actually scary. Based on Dennis Wheatley’s book of the same name, wastes little time getting down and dirty in its posh settings. Charles Gray kills as the heavy leader of a satanic coven determined to succeed at all cost. Watch this one late at night at your peril, it’ll keep you up afterwards.
There you have it. The definitive Hammer Films List. You can find these films at many different places. We revisited them using our brand new Home Cinema with a 160 inch screen size and it definitely made them land with an energy that hadn’t come through in previous viewings on smaller screens.
This list is obviously the only list that matters with concern to it’s subject. If you’d like more honest assessments of million dollar movie franchises check out the ECR take on Shaken Martinis.